Wednesday, 25 May 2011
The Benedictine Reform continues... The Cistercians of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme are formally suppressed
AFP reports that Pope Benedict XVI has "shut down a famous community in Rome that organised dances by a former nightclub dancer nun and hosted VIPs like Madonna, earning the disfavour of the Vatican." Writing in La Stampa, the Vaticanologist Andrea Tornielli says that this suppression of the ancient monastic community of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, proves that "Benedict XVI knows how to be dramatic when it comes to policy making and to removing 'dirt' from the Church."
It seems that the Cisterican community, which has been based at the ancient Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme since the 1600's, was given two months' notice to leave sometime last March. Details of the suppression are only now coming to light, but it followed an Apostolic Visitation that concluded there were sufficient "irregularities" attached to the community at Santa Croce to merit its dissolution. A decree signed by Archbishop João Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and approved by the Holy Father, was issued at the request of the Apostolic Visitors. This decree orders the monks of Santa Croce to relocate to other Cisterican monasteries in Italy.
La Stampa also reported on Saturday that the Basilica's Abbey was closed down due to its recurring liturgical abuses and "rumors of questionable behavior and lack of moral discipline in the monastic community." It appears, according to AFP, that "some unorthodox practices including dances in which nuns pranced around the altar" have often caused scandal at Santa Croce. Apparently, there is a video on YouTube that shows a nun "performing a modern dance with a crucifix." According to La Stampa, this nun, Sr Anna Nobili, used to be a lap-dancer - it seems she decided against a life of solitude and penance after embracing the religious life!
Other bizarre practices associated with Santa Croce, which until recently was headed by the flamboyant former Milanese fashion designer, Abbot Simone Fioraso, included the provision of a limousine service for wealthy pilgrims and an internal shop that sold exclusive foods, perfumes and the like. It also seems that the monastery had transformed itself into a luxury hotel, and often hosted unsavoury celebrities (such as Madonna, here). Another strange part of the Basilica's life was the presence of an exclusive group of aristocrats, called the "Friends of Santa Croce." Its leader was Marquis Giulio Sacchetti - who, according to La Stampa, claims to be a direct descendant of Charlemagne himself.
Santa Croce in Gerusalemme is one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome, and was possibly founded by Constantine the Great in 325. The floor was originally covered with soil from Jerusalem, hence its name. The Basilica owns some of Christendom's most prized relics, including the Titulus Crucis (the wooden panel on which Pilate had Christ's name and title inscribed), two thorns from the Crown of Thorns, an incomplete nail from the Crucifixion, and three small wooden pieces of the True Cross itself. Other relics housed at Santa Croce include a large fragment from the Good Thief's cross, a bone from St Thomas's finger - the one that was inserted into the wounds of the Risen Christ, and various other implements of the Passion.
It is truly wonderful that Pope Benedict XVI is beginning to act so decisively in removing scandal from the Church. It is also important to note that, as he wrote in The Spirit of the Liturgy (as Cardinal Ratzinger), the Pope has now emphasised that "dancing is not a form of expression for the Christian liturgy." The days of moral laxity and liturgical abuses are coming to an end, and Pope Benedict XVI, a gentle man, is showing the Church that bishops have a duty to keep discipline and order. Also, as we have already seen in Australia, the Holy Father has no qualms in removing from their posts those bishops that have sometimes colluded with the culture of liturgical abuse and relativism which infected the Church after the Second Vatican Council.
[Image: Santa Croce in Gerusalemme; attributed to de Benutzer: Moguntier and published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Licence; source: Wikimedia Commons]